Emotions and Social Networks / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 10 April 2019 — With the ability to access the internet from a mobile phone, the vast majority of the Cuban people have opened a door to an almost unknown world. A world with many years of experience where ingenuity mixed with a voracity for the so long denied, produces unhealthy behavior, visible especially in social networks.

It’s enough to be in emotional disagreement with an idea/photo/video/text, for a normal person to become a troll. And if the attacks or endorsements multiply in one corner or another of this virtual quadrilateral, new users will mutate into trolls on both sides. They reinforce the idea of what others expect from that interaction. Not being face to face and the use of pseudonyms reinforces behavior that in real life tends to be of lesser intensity, or that at least, does not reach a peak with such immediacy. continue reading

It is not a phenomenon  exclusive to Cuba. It is known that when the subject is emotional, people act on the basis of moral indignation, which makes them feel good about themselves, and that feeling of being right reinforces intervening again in the same tone.

Facebook and Twitter are ideal spaces to transmit emotions, and this emotion feeds of “likes,” sharing and retweeting as a moral reward of approval.

From another angle, this behavior has not gone unnoticed for those people who have seen an economic mother-lode.

Have you ever — or often — shared tender photos of animals, beautiful sunsets, idyllic landscapes, wise, motivating, witty phrases; or those more emotional images of undernourished people, babies with Down Syndrome or children with cancer?

Do you share religious messages, hugs, friendship, in short, the varied combinations that always end up generating a ton of retweets.

Almost everyone has shared once, others have lost count of the times they have clicked or endorsed these contents.

Victims of ignorance, we have also circulated the messages of “the Messenger administrator” or “the CEO of Facebook”, alerting us that there are who knows how many accounts and we should forward information to our contacts. Another variant with a corporate disguise.

Almost all those arrivals on our wall have a different purpose than they appear to have. Appealing to the underlying feeling that if you do not get involved you are not a good person, or do not support a friendship, or that a catastrophe may occur in our beloved social network; in different parts of the planet, people we will never know, earn money with our clicks.

Only in passing, mention the news or false images out of context with apocalyptic headlines. So important / ingenious / impacting states arrive at our wall that we share immediately. We are not obliged to fact check, but at least we must be aware that there is a problem and it is increasing.

These are, shall we say, tricks but rather innocuous ways of winning a chat at our expense. But there are others whose scope we can not handle.

A while ago it was learned that a pastime that is still on Facebook and became very popular, was designed specifically to capture data: How famous are you? From your photo you observe the transformation to the famous one in question. To run, the app requests permissions and receives data such as name, photo, age, sex, language, country, friend list, mail, photos, likes …

The South Korean company VonVon, and I no longer speak of individuals if not of companies, developer of this and a variety of games for Facebook, trades with this information. In its privacy policy it announces that the data it collects may be sold to third parties, which means that our data may be sent without our knowledge to a site with which we have never interacted, of which we have no knowledge and that we do not know for what purpose they are collected.

Nor is the solution to “turn off” Facebook, which a year ago already allowed the filtering of data from millions of users to Cambridge Analytica and a security breach has just become known that exposed the data of at least one million usersIt is common sense not to get carried away by empathic first impressions.

If a friendship shares important content with us, we can and should support it. Or simply because we like it. But it is much healthier to create our own content with the topics that interest us rather that resend those that come from who knows where.

With chains of all kinds, the word should be NO, but we talk about social networks, and we should not exaggerate either. What we publish and what we share will always be an individual responsibility.

Jose Marti and the Single-Party Political System / Regina Coyula

Jose Marti in the Plaza de la Revolucion

Regina Coyula, 31 August 2018 — Given that the subject is fashionable and that, in support of it, Fidel Castro’s speech has been quoted in the press, I quote José Martí — better positioned in the ranking of national public opinion — on the topic:

 “… The Republic … will not be the unfair dominance of one class of Cubans over others, but an open and sincere balance of all the real forces of the country, and of the free thought and desire of all Cubans.

“Every public party must adjust itself to its people.

“The Revolutionary Party, whose prior and temporary mission shall cease on the day when Cuba does its share of the war it has agreed on with the island, has no heads to raise, nor old or new bosses to impose on those of the country, or aspirations which would be swept away in one breath by the prior right of the first republic, and the new, supreme right of the country.”

A Cuban in the Court of Happiness by Decree / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 11 September 2018 — A friend recently pointed out to me, the Granma newspaper was a magnificent source of inspiration for alternative journalism. I do not subscribe to the paper nor would I be capable of standing in line at a kiosk to buy it, so it is an exception when I find myself with a copy. This rarity led me to a pearl on Friday, an idyllic full-page article: “The Untold Reality of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The journalist seems to have written in situ about what he calls “the ignored realities.” He was very impressed after a visit to Songdowong International Camp, where he captures the opinion of a North Korean teenager: “The bed, the mattress and even the paper stuck on the wall are so fantastic that we fell asleep without realizing it.”

For most Cubans, still without access to open and verifiable information, this chronicle may even light a small flame of solidarity towards the North Koreans, trapped seventy years ago in the happiness by decree of the Kim dynasty; a dynasty with hereditary castes that depend on their ties to the government. continue reading

A full page article, analyzing it would require an essay and not a blog post, but the excited journalist doesn’t mention that the beach camp of his North Korean son known as the Songdowon International Children’s Union Camp, a set specially prepared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the benefit of foreigners, Tripadvisor site included.

So it is totally consistent that a child in attendance asked to talk with a representative of a friendly government, does not dwell on slogans in his statement, but is honest about what really impresses him about the place: the bed, the mattress, the wallpaper…

From the National Highway to the Information Highway / Regina Coyula

Source: Wikipedia

Regina Coyula, 13 September 2018  — In the 1980s, when driving along the brand new highway pompously named Ocho Vías (Eight Lanes), one’s attention was drawn to the small sheds distributed along the way. It was then for coaxial cable, but it would be for fiber optics. The latest. Those little sheds promised (or seemed to promise, would be more accurate) modern telecommunications thanks to a fast and reliable technology, even in the face of storms and our traditional hurricanes.

But it was the ’80s, the country was pointed towards (and bolstered by ) the societal project of the New Man, and with the demise of that project a slow death has taken over what came to be constructed of the National Highway, which should have ended in Santiago de Cuba, but lurched toward and ended at the center of the island. The same fate must have befallen the other project of the small sheds, regarding which there is no news.

I was thinking about this on this weekend in 2018, when I tried to connect through the free test announced by Etecsa, the phone company, which was meant to allow us to connect to the internet via cellphones.

Translated by Jim

Memory of the Future / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides

Regina Coyula, 29 June 2018 — Alcides was not a censored one (although undoubtedly he would have been), but a quarter of a century ago, by his own will, he insiled [internally exiled] himself from Cuba’s cultural life. As part of that insile, he did not let himself be seduced by the national literature prize about fifteen years ago.

He felt rewarded knowing that his book Agradecido como un perro (Grateful as a Dog) was exchanged for cigarettes in the Combinado del Este prison in the late eighties, that it traveled in a plastic bag with the scarce possessions of a rafter, or was requested in the neighborhood; that kids would arrive from all over the country who discovered in a bookstore second hand.

His books are now collectors’ items, a writer unknown to the youngest and unpublished after 1990, if not for the Sevillian editor Abelardo Linares knocking on the door one day and later others appeared in Logroño, and because of the insistence of the unforgettable Albertico Rodríguez Tosca, in Colombia.

Alcides was unable to leave the house to meet a celebrity. Instead, many will remember an extraordinary host, both friends and recent arrivals. He lived as a poet, always wanting to see poetry in everyday events. Some verses saved for posterity. Poetry driven away, he dedicated himself to to finishing enormous drafts of novels left in the pipeline in the hurry to live, and now left to me, filled with notes for a huge job ahead.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent me your admiration and regret.

From a Leader to a Director, From a Director to a Functionary / Regina Coyula

A long line of customers stretches outside a Western Union office in Havana. (14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, 20 April 2018 — The new president takes office with the backing of Raul Castro, but the advanced ages of the so-called “historical leaders” make that support very volatile and Diaz-Canel must create his own alliances beyond those he inherited, in order to govern a country filled with problems.

In spite of yesterday’s speeches, and in spite of Diaz-Canel, of Raul Castro and of the rest of the 603 deputies, the economy must be put ahead of the ideological cart now that there is nothing left of the “Maximum Leader” except his ashes.

And since they proclaim themselves so irreversibly socialist, they should study, review and analyze what Marx wrote on the issue. And if all this is tedious and old, get in line: at a market, a pharmacy, a bus stop — opportunities abound — and pay attention.

Internet from the Shore / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 16 March 2018 — (Text published in the bulletin of the 2018 Internet Freedom Festival) Cell phones have been used commercially in the world since 1995, but we Cubans couldn’t have our own cell phones until 2009. Internet access through prepaid cards in public places dates from 2015. In Cuba, the year 2017 will be remembered for the introduction of 3G technology and access to the Internet for the first time from home via ADSL-fixed telephone lines.

The only telecommunications business that operates in the country announces an increase in access, but it comes at the cost of high prices, censorship of pages critical of the Government and self-censorship, with the user suspecting that all navigation is traceable. continue reading

I learned about the Internet in 2009, during a trip to Spain, and it was love at first sight. When I went back to Cuba, I decided to open a blog, and I asked my neighbor, the blogger Yoani Sánchez, for help. I spent months posting blindly thanks to friends abroad who uploaded the contents from content I emailed to them.

My first time on the Internet in Cuba, I wasted a prepaid card that gave me an hour of connection from a hotel, since I was so nervous and inept that I forgot the password and spent an hour of virtual onanism rereading my posts, discovering the comments…and nothing more.

I had to learn how to swim in those waters, as they say. I had to “empower myself” to be not just someone who reads email and opens a page on Facebook. Studying came to me easily because it encourages the illusion that I’m not getting Alzheimer’s like I feel with my son (I have to say that I came to motherhood late) when we’re discussing applications and programs.

And together with this familiarity that I established with the Internet, I became conscious that it’s a tool that is too powerful to be left in the hands of governments and/or businesses. As a Cuban, I feel that they have denied us entrance into the 21st century, that this digital divide is difficult to remedy and is even more serious in a literate population with a high rate of middle and higher education, which, in addition, is growing old.

We can’t blame our technological backwardness on the Blockade-Embargo (what it’s called varies according to one’s viewpoint) alone or to the long dispute between the governments of Cuba and the United States, although it has its part.

Beyond the material limitations that it supposes, there exists a domestic political will to keep us isolated and uninformed. José Martí, our greatest thinker, said it simply: “Don’t believe; read,” but we Cubans don’t want to be spoon-fed bits of information seasoned by the governmental point of view. That day when I forgot my password, I decided not only to swim, but also to help others who look out from the shore.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Eye: Data / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 16 January 2018 — During the World Internet Governance Forum held in Geneva at the end of December 2017, my curiosity was raised that the word most mentioned in the different forums was “data.”

The term Big Data has been increasingly pervasive among the multiple stakeholders in Internet Governance. Since the English mathematician Clive Dumby, in 2006, launched the phrase that is associated with the data boom: “Data is the new oil,” this new oil, unlike the organic one, has only grown exponentially, and is a “renewable” resource. continue reading

Impossible to give shape without complex programs and powerful processors, so that this enormous amount of information is usable; To make these data really valuable, what is known as the 4V rule must be fulfilled: Volume, Speed, Variety, Veracity, which are explained by themselves.

According to the most widespread idea, it is about the data generated by social networks as a whole; however, these data represent a small amount of the global volume, but they are the data that allow profiles to be drawn up, and which may end up violating the right to privacy, as has already been demonstrated.

Something as widespread and everyday as the mobile phone, even with the data turned off, is a transmitting source and, by triangulating the antennas, can constantly announce its geographical locatio. A TED conference offers an interesting perspective on this.

Cases like that of Dumby that became a millionaire creating brand loyalty through the expert handling of Big Data to know tastes and trends, have motivated many to create their own ventures with data analysis.

For others, studying this information can predict droughts and prevent famines; it can improve the life of the citizen by optimizing administrative management in what is known as Open Goverment; or it can be decisive in clinical diagnosis. This is, let’s say, the friendly area of Big Data, because in its darkest side, in the hands of companies and/or unscrupulous governments, what can not be deduced about the private life of individuals?

In many countries, these databases have been opened to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation and as a sign of transparency. But as, in Cuba, we can not wait for that opening by a secretive government par excellence, the care of the data is an individual responsibility. What we share on social networks, what we say on the phone, the content of our correspondence, both traditional and electronic.

And if we want more privacy, leave the cell phone at home.

Intellectual Property in Cuba: Reprint, Reeducate, Reinsert, Rethink / Regina Coyula

Cuba’s Higher Institute of Art (ISA). (Source: notesfromthewest.wordpress.com)

Regina Coyula, 8 December 2017 — According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property is “any property that, by mutual agreement, is considered to be of an intellectual nature and worthy of protection, including scientific and technological inventions, literary or artistic productions, trademarks and distinctive signs, industrial designs and geographical indications.”

The protection umbrella covers both the most traditional works and those associated with new technologies: multimedia productions, databases or computer programs. It is assumed that the protection of copyright encourages creativity and favors cultural and social development. The absolute character of this assertion is stubbornly defended by those who defend free culture. continue reading

We will leave aside trademarks, patents and everything related to the protection of industrial property to place the focus on the artistic creation protected by copyright. In particular, we will look at the way in which this creation is disseminated and/or shared, as this is a current issue that has peculiar characteristics in Cuba.

Cuba is a signatory to the Berne Convention amended in 1979. The Cuban copyright law dates back to 1977 with modifications through decree-laws that continue into the first years of the past decade. Intellectual property and copyright issues are taught not only in the School of Law, but in the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), the Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI) and the School of Social Communication. The updating of the law is an imperative to adapt it to the changes of the digital age.

In practice, there is an exemplary zeal for the protection of Cuban intellectual property in the international arena, which contrasts with the laxness in respecting the intellectual property of others that has prevailed within our borders.

Restrictions on access to quality information in the scientific-technical field meant that in the 60’s publications such as Scientific AmericanScience or Science & Vie were reproduced without consultation to be sent to the archives of the documentation centers of different organs of the State including its education and research centers.

In the 80s, with the rise of videos in Betamax format, now obsolete, Omnivideo, a company affiliated with the CIMEX Corporation, sold unauthorized copies of film in hard currency stores. On the other hand, it is usual practice for Cuban television to reproduce materials while hiding the logo of the channel from which they were taken.

All these practices have tried to justify themselves ethically with the argument of “breaking the blockade,” but leave out the deeper discussion that reveals the illogical contrasts already discussed. Copyright is not only the protection of the right of the owners, it is also the creation of a favorable scenario for art, knowledge, science and culture to circulate. The legal framework should reflect that balance, a only then can a society exploit and take advantage of technological advances.

The rights of copyright holders and the fight against piracy

There are many groups that defend piracy for having been the instrument for knowledge, culture and science to be democratized. It is argued that the United States only became protective of copyright when it developed its own cultural industries after having widely pirated British works.

However, during the last decades, international treaties reflect a protectionist regulatory trend that pressures countries to strengthen their legal protection mechanisms. As Cuba enters into the logic of the market economy, record sellers, who fill their devices with all kinds of material protected by copyright, will be up against the awareness that they are encouraging an illegal activity.

It is important to recognize that, as in most underdeveloped economies, pirated discs and other digital media, both outside legal distribution networks, continue to be the largest form of access to recorded music and movies.

While the prices of legitimate CDs of Cuban music vary between 15 and 25 convertible pesos, the same CD in an alternative market costs no more than three. In the Cuban case, the knowledge of how The Weekly Packet works and is distributed , serves to understand the internal dynamics.

The internet is practically non-existent in Cuban society. Few people can have a home connection and public ones are irregular and still very expensive. This favors the coexistence of recorded discs, USB memories and portable discs due to the high number of CD/DVD players that still exist in the country.

Everything points to the fact that this model must change. If bilateral relations with the United States are regularized and/or the trade embargo laws against Cuba are weakened, the unrestricted use of protected material is put into perspective.

Those who manage the aforementioned Weekly Package, increasingly, have been including commercial advertising from the island’s the emerging private sector. This could allow them a relatively smooth fall when it becomes a punishable offense to transfer products protected by copyright, giving them the option of converting into cpmpanies supported by companies.

For those who sell discs, the road will be different. The desire to legitimize will generate initiatives such as agreements with local artists to function as distributors of their material. Thus they may become like their peers in Ecuador or Bolivia, former sellers of pirated production, many of whom reconverted due to the joint effort of the interested institutions and the Government, thus becoming merchants that pay taxes and pay national artists for sales. As a result, the costs of music CDs have been lowered and there is support for the promotion of the national market and a legal status of the vendor, previously nonexistent.

Cuba must start thinking about the transition. How can an internal market be supported by keeping the jobs and income that are being created and allowing the owners to receive income from the exploitation of their work? This is the commercial edge.

However, as in the rest of the countries, no legislation could foresee the change that the popularization of the information and knowledge through the Internet would bring, with both the positive and negative aspects it would entail. It is inevitable to rethink this given the new way in which information travels, while the right to access protected content is permeating popular consciousness.

Free Culture

The spread of knowledge that uses digital technology where the cost of reproduction is close to zero, translates into a jump in the level of access to information and culture never before seen in a proportion never imagined. It is inevitable that people affect others and are affected by the opinions and knowledge that, in massive quantities, are shared in social networks, and in digital publications 2.0, where anyone can leave a comment.

The internet, but above all the philosophy of free software, have led to the appearance of categories such as copyleft (a word game xpressing the opposite of copyright), or Creative Commons, both related to free culture . The popular Wikipedia is a collaborative creation par excellence.

This ability of the Internet and digital technology to widely distribute content clashes with the central premise of copyright, which requires asking to ask permission to use it. In the search for legal mechanisms that allow people to take advantage of these characteristics, the philosophy of free software that rests on copyleft licenses and modifies the effect of the legal model of copyright is reasserted.

In copyleft licenses, ownership is used to grant very broad permits to other people in the use of the protected material with only one condition: if what is done with the material is to modify it for a derivative version, the license must be maintained in the new material, so that the broad reuse effect is perpetuated.

Inspired by these ideas, Creative Commons licenses emerged at the beginning of the 21st century, presented as a series of six licenses, a kind of menu from which creators can choose, giving more or less permission to reuse their work.

The development and promotion by the state by these open licenses that are associated with the idea of free culture promotes a series of initiatives where the commercial aspect is displaced. Instead, the role is to take advantage of technology to widely distribute the contents. For example, open educational resources, an initiative of important educational institutions to share all of their teaching materials endorsed by UNESCO, has been adopted by many academic institutions and promoted by governments such as those of Poland or the USA.

On the other hand, at the economic and political peripheries, in this arena, piracy has a very well established role as a development strategy that facilitates the circulation of knowledge goods. Piracy also has a clear political role as a counterweight to the centralized control of information, either by the State or by private interests.

The flexibilities of copyright, science and culture

The issue of the broadest access to protected works cannot be left only to the will of the people. Copyright, in its own architecture, has weights and counterweights. As a balance mechanism for the privileges of those who create works, the copyright rules provide that, once the term of protection expires, the works enter the public domain and the author can no longer control commercial exploitation (moral rights are perpetual). Thus, anyone can reuse the works without asking permission.

Additionally, during the term of protection (in Cuba it is 50 years), the law recognizes exceptional cases. Given conditions that are often very restrictive, people can reuse protected works without asking permission, because the knowledge and culture of society is considered to navigate through them. That is why works can be “quoted, parodied or used for academic purposes.”

International treaties have effectively generalized the protection of owners, but have left it up to the States to legislate exceptions. This has led, especially in developing countries, to lists that tend to be limited and very restrictive. Contrast, for example, the United States, where, beyond closed lists, there is an open clause that allows courts to use broader criteria to analyze if the use of a work without authorization of the owner can be considered as fair, and, therefore, does not violate the copyright.

As Cuba enters the international market, the pressures will be to comply with the protections. If it does not do so in balance with the right of people, there will be serious problems of access to knowledge, science and culture, as well as other rights. Cuban law has very little flexibility and does not even meet the needs of the pre-Internet age.

Let’s look at a single example to demonstrate the problem. It is usual in the laws of copyright to contemplate exceptions to use current news without it being considered a violation of copyright. The news media in the world reproduce, for example, the images of the last terrorist attack without fear of being sued by the local newscast that obtained them. This is not possible in Cuba and forces information providers into illegality. Current information is exceptional and any law must recognize its use beyond copyright.

In sum, the debates about the limits between sharing knowledge and protecting intellectual property have only just begun. Discussing, analyzing local effects and proposing a balanced legal framework is an obligation that can not be postponed by the interested parties in Cuba.

A Debt to Bogota / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 25 April 2017 — I had thought of writing about the first impressions that Bogota has left me, impressions deepened by the contrast of a people so warm that they do not seem to carry the burden of six decades of violence. I had thought of writing about a city dominated by churches and bricks, of green mango with lemon and pepper, of the beautiful cadence they give to the Spanish language, even from the loathsome loudspeakers of industrious street vendors. Of that and more I thought to write as yesterday I walked along Seventh Street, full of families on bicycles or Sunday strollers.

But that was yesterday and today, Monday, I can see the details of the standoff in Venezuela, with its macabre stasis. I see Lilián Tintori denouncing the the Public Defender’s office. I see Maria Corina, enormous, confronting an arrest warrant. I see Venezuela without the filter of its state-run network, TeleSur. continue reading

I also saw confirmation that Karla Maria Perez, a young, talented student at the Central University of Las Villas, had been expelled from the school of journalism by her classmates. The reason? She was a member of Somos+, a political movement considered “illegal,” like every group not allied with the government.

On one hand, the Venezuelan people want to rescue democracy. On the other, they deviously send ahead a group of young people, fearful themselves of losing their future if they aren’t convinced. These young people of the Student University Federation who have been deprived of innocence with a cruel lesson, incapable of articulating a question about the disappearance of the bust of Mella in that postcommunist space that now is the Manzana Kempinski (formerly the Manzana Gómez).

No, Bogotá. I can’t write the chronicle that you would have deserved.

Measuring Internet Censorship in Cuba / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula (Report from the Ooni Team) — Last May, members of the Open Observatory of the Network Interference Project (Ooni), traveled to Cuba and performed a series of tests measuring the performance of the internet at eight connection points in Havana, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba, with the goal of measuring the censorship of the internet.

As part of that study, they were able to confirm the blocking of 41 websites. Many of these sites include news agencies and blogs, as well as sites in favor ofdemocracy and human rights. Many of the blocked sites, directly or indirectly, express criticism of the Cuban government. However, other sites that also express criticism were found to be unblocked. continue reading

Web proxys, like Anonymous, were blocked, which limits the ability of Cubans to bypass censorship. The Tor network was accessible, probably because Cuba has relatively few Tor users.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology was found. Through latency measurements, we have been able to confirm that the blocking server is most likely to be found in Havana (and, certainly in Cuba). Only the HTTP version of the sites to be blocked was found, which could allow users to bypass censorship simply by accessing them via HTTPS. Most blocked sites, however, do not support HTTPS.

Skype was blocked. By examining packet traces, we have been able to determine that the DPI middlebox blocks Skype by means of RST injection. Other popular communication tools, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, were accessible.

It was also found that the Chinese provider Huawei is supporting the Internet infrastructure of Cuba. The server header of blocked sites, for example, pointed to Huawei equipent. It is not yet clear, although internet censorship in the country does indeed apply.

Finally, it was discovered by chance that Google is blocking the Google App Engine from Cuba (when trying to run END).

In general, internet censorship does not appear to be particularly sophisticated in Cuba. The high cost of the internet and the limited availability of public WiFi access points across the country remain the main obstacles to internet access. But as the internet landscape of Cuba evolves, techniques and practices around internet censorship will evolve.Therefore, we believe it is important to continue measuring networks with ooniprobe in Cuba and other parts of the world.

Thanks for reading our latest report — we are happy to answer any questions.

~ The Ooni team

You can read the report here.

One Site, Many Voices (or How the Hurricane Was Followed from Social Networks) / Regina Coyula

Líber Barrueta’s Facebook Page — Click on image to connect

Regina Coyula, 26 September 2017 — It is an era of false news and Líber Barrueta, a Cuban-Swede based in Miami has a website of this fake news where he sarcastically refers to the way the press tackles the news. But neither the construction of an underground transport system in Havana, nor Tony Castro talking about the uniforms of the baseball team, nor even the new customs regulations that have been the subject of so much ink, have generated as much traffic for Líber as he has had in his personal account on the social networks between the days of the 9th and 10th of September.

Those were days Cubans will not easily forget. Irma would remind us of what a powerful hurricane is capable of. Líber, who has a large number of friends on Facebook, where he creates and shares motivational videos, began to share information on the weather phenomenon on his wall. continue reading

But the information was always delayed, waiting for the television or radio to say something. On seeing his updates, a friend residing in another state called him and recommended the Windy.com app, which allows you to follow the weather events in real time.

When he saw how complete the information was, Líber installed the app on his computer and on his phone and began to study it, because his knowledge of meteorology is that of any ordinary Cuban who has watched Doctor Jose Rubiera on television. Necessity led him to understand graphics, translation speeds, path models, and how to interpret the hectopascals (units of pressure); a five minute intensive and self-managed course of meteorology.

When Irma began her scourge over the territory of Cuba, Líber transmitted uninterruptedly for four hours supported by Windy and specialized bulletins. And this produced a reaction that illustrates the measure of the power of social networks: from different parts of the world, Cubans and foreigners began to interact on Líber’s wall, either to ask specific questions about the storm, to inquire about places and people threatened by the hurricane or to share images of the affected areas. From points as dissimilar as Scotland, Russia, Angola, and from Cuba itself, they went to Líber’s wall to construct, in this informal but detailed way, the vicissitudes of the event.

After a break he transmitted for four more hours, then slept a bit, and then transmitted for another two hours until he found himself without electricity or an internet connection. Maybe he did not have too many “thumbs up” (likes), because the moment was not for that, but he received more than 50,000 visits, 1,000 comments, and stopped counting after 300 private messages. New friend requests coming after this experience exceeded Facebook’s capacity for a personal account.

Still touched by the scare by the cyclone and the astonishment over the reception of his reports, this Bachelor in Education in the specialty of Philosophy and History, confesses that he had never felt a special interest in meteorology, other than living in an area marked by tropical cyclones, but after the extraordinary experience of Irma, which began with an eagerness to keep his friends at all latitudes informed with  fresh and real information continuously updated for 10 hours, he has become motivated to know more about this subject. Líber is aware that many of those who visited his wall were not able to receive real-time information from Miami and much less from Cuba.

Líber Barrueta states that without the help of his partner Katya Moreira and without the support of her family it would have been impossible to report, comment, connect, answer, all at the same time at a frenetic pace. His mother-in-law, who at first did not understand what he was doing, became a collaborator. It does not matter that in the family they believed that, not being a specialist, it would not be possible to do it well. “People are used to it,” he says, “and this is a very widespread idea, that only what the traditional press publishes is valid, and that is the case in many countries. Little by little they understand that a vote of confidence must be given to the citizen.”

Censorship / Regina Coyula

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

Jorge Enrique Lage interviews Miguel Coyula (extracts) 6

[Miguel speaking]… I am against censorship, as we’ve seen what happened with that film in the Havana Film Festival in New York; it spreads beyond the geographical limits of the island for extra-artistic interests. I mean, politics touches everything.

The worsening of the position goes back to the censorship of the film El Rey se Muere (translated into English both as “Exit the King” and “The King is Dying”) in 2015. Many people defended Juan Carlos Cremata’s work, saying they did not believe that the censors would interpret the king as being Fidel. That is, they used the language of the government to try to address the problem, when it was clear that the reference point was him. What they should have said was “Yes, it’s Fidel. And what of it?” continue reading

To the extent that artists draw up their mental blueprint to go “as far as they can” there will never be a truly independent art form. It ends up affecting not just the content, but also the form.

Liberty has to be absolute, in order to be able to take risks, and to take off. Nothing can be sacred. At least, that’s how I see art. I’ve never been interested in being part of the political game, of religion, of the consumer society, or of drugs. It seems like a nothing, but a film-maker, interested in social or political issues, who cannot have one of his characters say “when are Fidel and Raul going to die?”, which is a such a common thing to say in Cuban homes, along with much more agressive variants on the theme, is symptomatic of a dysfunctional whole.

The artist documents his time, but, looking at Cuban films made in the island over the last seventy years, you’d think that no Cuban had ever asked that sort of question. Recently I was told, by way of advice: “You can fiddle with the chain, but not with the monkey, otherwise you are out of the game”. To which I replied: “Who said I see it as a game?”

It is essential that film producers are ready to completely defend their work,  because a half-assed attitude only gets you a slow-motion impact, which is inevitably reflected in subsequent works. You can’t give an inch.

But, returning to your question, the most recent case of censorship had to do with Nadie (Nobody), April 15th just gone, when the State Security and the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) blockaded the entrance to the El Circulo Gallery where they were going to show it. This censorship is not an institutional arrangement but a blatant governmental act, a complete invasion of a private space by way of a show of police force.

Many people outside Cuba ask me how can it be possible that no Cuban intellectual living in the island made any public protest about what happened. The film had its international premiere in the Dominican Global Film Festival, where it was awarded the Best Documentary prize, but it has been ignored by the island critics.

We don’t know if it’s good, or bad, or they were left feeling indifferent to it, or if, simply, they were afraid of writing about it, as it’s difficult to make a critical appraisal of Nadie without mentioning Fidel Castro. And, to this day, that’s the line almost no-one has dared to cross.The rock group Porno para Ricardo is one of the few who have dared to confront it, and, well, the price they have paid is that they are not allowed to play in Cuba.

Translated by GH